Sunday, October 25, 2009

fun or not fun

Traveling with an autistic child is always a gamble. The old standbys (ie. the grandparents' houses) usually work out pretty well. But even trips to the most familiar places sometimes involve massive meltdowns. New destinations are even more dicey. We can head for a zoo full of animals while promising stops for ice cream along the way. Sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't. Every trip involves careful calculation and management. Just how much change can Martin manage, if not enjoy, on any given day?

I just returned from a short visit to see Martin's grandparents, along with lots of our Pennsylvania relatives who had gathered at their house. Martin had a bunch of second-cousins to play with. His enjoyment breakdown went this way: 25% of the time thoroughly enjoyed, 15% of the time out-of-control with frustration and anger, and the remaining 60% somewhere in the middle. Seeing him laugh and have fun as he and his cousins tried to break into a gumball machine was a real treat. He was joining kids he doesn't know very well in a new adventure. But balancing moments like that with Martin's breakdowns over a lost presidential flash card and his inability to sit down and eat a meal with everyone made the trip a little hard for me to take.

I always imagined I'd take my children on fun little adventures, but we haven't gone camping in two years. We haven't taken Martin along when we've tried anything outside the circuit of relatives and close friends' houses. Martin and my husband stayed home last December when we performed my grandmother's funeral mass and burial service. We're not sure we'll be able to attend a bi-annual reunion with graduate school friends and their families. To make these sorts of trips means exposing ourselves (and our friends and family) to the possibility that Martin will be miserable and will make the rest of us miserable too. But not going comes at the cost of not finding out the new things Martin can do as he grows and develops. It's a tough situation. And the stakes always feel high. Who wants to travel a long way, spend money, and hope for a little relaxation with the underlying fear that you have about only about a 50% chance of having a good time?

Martin had a pretty good time this weekend. He'll remember the gumball machine. He'll talk about his second-cousins over the coming weeks. He always seems to forget the tantrums. It's a little harder for me to forget the unpleasant moments. While Martin had fun, I had fun and not fun.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh, we are the same way. I love to go places, but outside of my parent's house, we have to really think hard about everywhere else.

    One thing that has helped with the sitting at the table is setting a timer. They use one at my son's ABA school, so we bought one for home too. We started at five minutes and are up to eight! He's only four, so we have high hopes for the 25 minute goal set by his therapists.